run a tight ship


run a tight ship

Meaning | Definition

  • to be strict about something
  • to have rules in order to do something
  • to not let things go haywire in a particular situation
  • to control something or someone

Example Sentences

  1. Martha runs a tight ship at home. With 4 kids to take care of at home, she cannot have it any other way.
  2. I am trying to run a tight ship at work but my team mates have not taken me seriously yet.
  3. You sure run a tight ship with regards to your children’s education.
  4. Mother cannot run a tight ship around here if none of you are willing to listen!


The phrase originates as one of the nautical themed base which speaks about the strict behaviour by captains on sailing ships. If the captain is not strict about everything then it would be easy for the entire journey to be spoiled since sailing work is considered very hard and people would relax on their duties if it wasn’t for strict and hard instructions. Running a tight ship literally talks about being stern with instructions and following through. There are also consequences for people who so not do their parts well and in a timely manner, as instructed by the captain and superiors.

Share your opinions5 Opinions

To “run a tight ship” vs a “loose ship” actually has much more serious implications. A captain who ran a tight ship was more demanding of the sailors in keeping everything in order and some resented it. However, if there was a storm or other emergency, the “tight” ship was prepared and the “loose” ship was not and many times went down.

‒ Juan Chaco September 17, 2023

Along with taught rigging, the phrase also refers to the caulking between the ships timbers. A well caulked ship would be more water resistant, hence the word ‘tight’.

‒ Roger Hilton May 1, 2021

I think the origin has not only something to do with the rigging but also with the hull structure itself. Timber sailing ships were normally flexible so that in stormy weather this flexing would result in the opening and closing of the seams and water would penetrate which would then have to be pumped out. A more heavily built ship with more rigid timbers [such as teak] resisted this flexing and leaked far less. It had a “tighter” construction and could withstand heavy weather with less effort spent on dealing with leakage, so was sailed more efficiently.

‒ Charles Burge November 12, 2019

You are correct Sir , if judging this saying historically (Which my DAD Would have done)
But the modernists as they always do, have a alternative meaning
Read the above as they say 😉

‒ Paul Williams June 22, 2018

Wouldn’t that have something to do with the tautness of the rigging? A ship with slack rigging is one that’s not being properly run- so to keep a tight ship would naturally come to mean efficiency, regardless of the strictness of the captain.

‒ Elspeth Parris January 28, 2018

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